Michael Vick sauntered through a hallway at the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice facility and paused to glance at a framed picture of the team’s last NFC championship celebration.
That victory was eight years ago against Vick and the Atlanta Falcons. The pressure is on Vick to deliver now.
The Eagles have one of the youngest teams in the league, but they’re also built to win this year. Anything less may cost coach Andy Reid his job. Owner Jeffrey Lurie already gave that directive, saying another 8-8 finish would be unacceptable.
“We’re going out and playing for our coach and we’re playing for our organization,” Vick said. “It’s not just about Coach Reid, it’s about the organization as a whole, the Philadelphia Eagles. We want to go out and represent, as players, the best we can for this team and we’re going to go out and make it happen. We’re all playing for Coach Reid, we’re playing for Mr. Lurie and we’re playing for each other.”
Vick has plenty to prove this season. He had a remarkable 2010, leading the Eagles to an NFC East title, earning a spot as the starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl and winning the AP Comeback Player of the Year award. Vick then was rewarded with a $100 million contract last August, just two years after the Eagles gave him a second chance in the NFL following his release from federal prison.
But with enormous expectations, Vick and the rest of the Eagles underachieved in 2011. Despite the team closing with a four-game winning streak over non-playoff teams, Vick seemed to regress into a turnover-prone, reckless player. He had 14 interceptions and lost four fumbles. He threw just six picks and lost four fumbles in 2010.
Staying healthy also was a problem. Vick couldn’t finish two games in September because of injuries and sat out three others with broken ribs. The Eagles went 1-4 in those five games. They finished 8-8 and just one game behind the eventual Super Bowl-champion New York Giants. So, one game, one play even, could’ve made all the difference.
Browns cancel Modell tribute
Avoiding a negative reaction and potentially ugly scene, the Cleveland Browns will honor a request by Art Modell’s family and not acknowledge the former owner’s death before today’s season opener.
The Browns had planned an “appropriate recognition” for Modell, who died on Thursday at the age of 87. But Modell’s son, David, spoke to Browns president Mike Holmgren and asked the team not do anything to recognize the late owner who remains vilified by many Cleveland fans for moving his team to Baltimore after the 1995 season.
Around the league
Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, one of key pieces in new coach Jeff Fisher’s rebuilding plan, signed a five-year contract extension. … The Saints placed starting defensive end Will Smith on the 53-man active roster for today’s season-opener against the Redskins. … The Jaguars activated running back Maurice Jones-Drew and waived second-year running back Keith Toston. … The Broncos released backup quarterback Caleb Hanie on the eve of their opener against the Steelers. The move means rookie Brock Osweiler will serve as Peyton Manning’s backup. … Colts offensive guard Joe Reitz did not travel with the team to Chicago for today’s season opener against the Bears.
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